Jutanugarn puts Thailand on map with major breakthrough

Thailands Ariya Jutanugarn celebrates winning the Womens British Open at Woburn. Picture: PA
Thailands Ariya Jutanugarn celebrates winning the Womens British Open at Woburn. Picture: PA
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Catriona Matthew was the leading European in a tie for fifth place, but it was Thailand’s Ariya Jutanugarn who made history yesterday with victory in the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Woburn.

Jutanugarn became the first from her country – man or woman – to win a major golf title with a final round 72 and a 16-under-par 272 total over the Marquess course.

Two ahead at the start of the final round, Jutanugarn’s lead was six shots by the time she birdied the long second and short sixth and she looked to be striding confidently to victory.

But she had to survive a great second half challenge from playing partner Mirim Lee before securing an emotional victory.

The South Korean birdied three holes in a row from the tenth – and when Jutanugarn had two nervy chips and double-bogeyed the 13th the advantage was down to one.

But the 20-year-old, who won thee tournaments in a row on the LPGA Tour in May, showed her champion’s class, rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt at the 17th and then a solid par at the last earned the £310,000 first prize.

Lee three-putted the 18th for a bogey and a 73 left her having to share second place, three behind on 13 under par, with 2014 champion, Mo Martin. The American had a closing 70.

Matthew is the only Scot to have won a major – this title at Royal Lytham and St Annes in 2009 – and, a month before she turns 47, she continues to amaze. Today is the 22nd anniversary of her turning professional and she still maintains the hunger, determination and talent to strike it alongside the best.

A second-round 65 catapulted Matthew into contention and she eventually finished on nine under par and in a three-way tie for fifth place.

She was a little disappointed with her final round, a bogey at the 18th leaving her with a cheque for £72,000.

A mum of two, husband Graeme spends most of his time these days in North Berwick looking after their two daughters. There is another domestic issue this week as they are meant to be returning to their recently renovated home that overlooks the West course where Matthew learned the game.

Then it will be on to Rio for the Olympic Games, and Woburn was the near-perfect warm-up.

“I just need to rise four places,” Matthew pointed out as she looked forward to chasing medals in Brazil. Graeme will also be going along as her caddie.

“It’s been a good championship but today I had a couple of slack shots and some terrible three putts. But we’re looking forward to the Olympics – something I could never even dream about when I was growing up playing golf.”

Jutanugarn was the class act over the four days. So powerful that she never even put a driver in the bag, she has the ability to become a dominant figure in the women’s game.

“This win is really important for me and for golf in Thailand,” she said after receiving a hug on the final green from her mum, Narumon. What did she say to her daughter? “She just cried,” said the new champion.

World No 1 Lydia Ko shot a final-day 74 and the New Zealand holder of two of the five majors finished with a rather disappointing one under par total.

Ireland’s 21-year-old Leona Maguire shot a final-round 75 for four under par and won the Smyth Salver for the top amateur.